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The Butterfly Effect

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
The Butterfly Effect
from Film Forum, 01/29/04

Television comedy star Ashton Kutcher (That 70s Show) stars in this week's top-grossing feature film. The Butterfly Effect is an intense psychological thriller that suggests a rather difficult notion: Kutcher as a dramatic actor.

The story is rather far-fetched as well. In it, a young man (Kutcher) traumatized by the death of his girlfriend (Amy Smart) takes advantage of a time travel trick to try and save her life. As he makes several trips forward and backward in time, he sees chaos theory in action—the idea that every inconsequential action has vast consequences. The harder he tries to make things right, the worse things seem to get.

Along the same lines, mainstream critics argue that this movie just gets worse the farther it goes. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) says, "There's so much flashing forward and backward, so many spins of fate, so many chapters in the journals, that after awhile I felt that I, as well as time, was being jerked around."

Religious press critics also feel a bit jostled by the film—and offended, too.

Loren Eaton (Plugged In) says, "The Butterfly Effect [has] some holes—huge ones, in fact—but it's kept moving fast enough and cleverly enough that most audiences won't notice until they're well out of the theater. What you can't help noticing is this R-rated feature's content. And there it fails miserably." Eaton notes that the film's creators are also responsible for "the pornographically violent Final Destination 2."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) calls it "an interesting sci-fi premise … weakened by a substandard cast and a pair of novice directors. Ashton Kutcher may be amusing in a slight TV comedy series but he proves himself unable to carry a dramatic film such as this one upon his shoulders. The premise of the film is interesting enough to keep us involved but not without the awareness that it could have been so much more intriguing in the hands of more capable artists."

Bruce Donaldson (Movieguide) says the movie "does address sin and its ramifications in the lives of 'real' people. It also resolves itself, nicely, with an act of loving, self-sacrifice." But then he concludes, "We are charged biblically not to set our eyes upon anything evil. The filmmakers are artful in keeping the most extreme violence and kiddie-porn/pedophilia off-screen. Why couldn't they have done the same with the sexuality and nudity?"

In a reference to "the butterfly effect" of chaos theory, David DiCerto says, "A lesser-known corollary to this postulate, known as 'The Kutcher Effect,' posits that an overhyped one-time underwear model stroking his ego on one movie set can eventually result in 113 minutes of unrelenting misery and boredom for moviegoers anywhere on earth."

from Film Forum, 02/05/04

Last week, religious press critics lined up to condemn the new thriller starring That 70s Show's young star Ashton Kutcher.

But this week, The Butterfly Effect found a fan. Gareth Kallenbach (The Phantom Tollbooth) defends the film, calling it "skillfully written … a stunning look into a troubled psyche and a study in the effects of childhood trauma. The film is equally gripping and disturbing, tackling a wide-range of controversial topics. The film [is] one of the best recently-produced dramas. Kutcher is amazing as he handles a difficult and complex role with skill and passion."